“Exalting the soul over the spirit, the pandaemonium of Life over escapist transcendence, this counter-tradition is known as Kosmic Gnosis. The wayfarers on this esoteric path quest for a unique form of liberation and distinction: Kaivalya.” – David Beth, Supreme Katabasis: Kaivalya and the Kosmic Gnosis
After returninq home from family based road-trip that took in Cornwall, Bristol, Somerset, the New Forest, and Sussex, I found Theion Publishing’s latest offering – Craig Williams’ Cave of the Numinous: Tantric Physics vol I. As always, it’s a thought-provoking tome thoroughly grounded in Craig’s esoteric background which leads you through a deeply interesting take on a particular strand of philosophical and magical praxis. But this isn’t a book review – I’m by no means qualified enough to engage on matters of Eastern philosophy.
Instead I’m focusing on the essay which leads into the text – written by David Beth and serving as grounding for Craig’s book; an elucidation of the current known as Kosmic Gnosis. I’m aiming to do this as a multipart piece, for though the essay is just 5 pages in length, there is a great deal to cover.
First, as the essay makes clear, the Kosmic Gnostic recognises the primacy of the soul, both of the individual and the ensouled kosmos at large. The interelation between the two is the basis of a vitalist symbiosis which is in direct opposition to the divisive rationalism of the spirit. In acknowledging the Aristotelian division of mankind’s substance, we find body, psyche and nous as useful jumping off points to explain things further.
Within Aristotle’s framework, the psyche is the substance which contributes to the inner life, while the nous is that intellectual and rationalising principle which brings about reckoning and discretion. It apparently necessarily reduces the continuum of experience and existence, the onrush of Beingh, into discreet moments – identifiable by their perameters, their outlines and their beginnings and endings. It’s instructive to look at etymology here:
rational (adj.) late 14c., “pertaining to reason;” mid-15c., “endowed with reason,” from Old French racionel and directly from Latin rationalis “of or belonging to reason, reasonable,” from ratio (genitive rationis) “reckoning, calculation, reason” (see ratio).
- ratio (n.)
- 1630s, “reason, rationale,” from Latin ratio “reckoning, numbering, calculation; business affair, procedure,” also “reason, reasoning, judgment, understanding,” from rat-, past participle stem of reri “to reckon, calculate,” also “think” (see reason (n.)). Mathematical sense “relationship between two numbers” is attested from 1650s.
- reason (n.)
- c.1200, “intellectual faculty that adopts actions to ends,” also “statement in an argument, statement of explanation or justification,” from Anglo-French resoun, Old French raison “course; matter; subject; language, speech; thought, opinion,” from Latin rationem (nominative ratio) “reckoning, understanding, motive, cause,” from ratus, past participle of reri “to reckon, think,” from PIE root *re(i)- “to reason, count” (source of Old English rædan “to advise;” see read (v.)). Meaning “sanity; degree of intelligence that distinguishes men from brutes” is recorded from late 13c. Sense of “grounds for action, motive, cause of an event” is from c.1300. Middle English sense of “meaning, signification” (early 14c.) is in the phrase rhyme or reason. Phrase it stands to reason is from 1630s. Age of Reason “the Enlightenment” is first recorded 1794, as the title of Tom Paine’s book.
Old English rædan (West Saxon), redan (Anglian) “to advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; read, explain; learn by reading; put in order” (related to ræd, red “advice”), from Proto-Germanic *redan (cognates: Old Norse raða, Old Frisian reda, Dutch raden, Old High German ratan, German raten “to advise, counsel, guess”), from PIE root *re(i)- “to reason, count” (cognates: Sanskrit radh- “to succeed, accomplish,” Greek arithmos “number amount,” Old Church Slavonic raditi “to take thought, attend to,” Old Irish im-radim “to deliberate, consider”). Words from this root in most modern Germanic languages still mean “counsel, advise.”
While these conceptions are not negative, there is nonetheless a teleological bias within them, an accumulative accquisitive aspect that can be found in the distinction between have and have not, in mine and yours; the dualism of the ego is subtly present in its tendency towards identity – I am, That is.
As a method of perceptual arrangement, the I as first identifier then relegates all other things to Not I. It’s unsurprising then that negative or apophatic, and positive or kataphatic theologies each limit themselves to one or the other types of description by listing what God either is not, or is.
Such reckonings are the basis of monotheism and monism – teachings that the Kosmic Gnostic rejects as categorical errors, both in the literal and metaphorical sense. The Life-Principle of Soul is thus invaded by Spirit (nous, logos) which attempts to bind both the individual’s soul, and the ensouled phenomena of the kosmos. Such bindings are cumulative and accquisitive. Spirit mercilessly arranges and orders our perception of vital kosmos into a discrete mappable form. It is is void, and nothing in and of itself – only perceivable through the actions and effects it has upon the world, the product and producer of an a-kosmic echo-chamber feeding greedily on the vital forces in order to continue a strange and counterfeit existence.
For this reason, one could suggest that Spirit can be seen in the image of the classically Gnostic Demiurge that denies the existence of the Pleroma, and claims it has created all things.
- deny (v.)
- early 14c., from Old French denoiir “deny, repudiate, withhold,” from Latin denegare “to deny, reject, refuse” (source of Italian dinegarre, Spanish denegar), from de- “away” (see de-) + negare “refuse, say ‘no,’ ” from Old Latin nec “not,” from Italic base *nek- “not,” from PIE root *ne- “no, not” (see un-). Related: Denied; denying.
This attempted negation of Being and reduction of experience to solipsistic extensions and responses of ego can be visibly seen in what we may call the Kali Yuga, which has been de rigeur since the beginning of the so-called historical period. To posit a logocentric transcendence – that is to say a transcendence which is Other than what we are ensouled in as portions of a living kosmos, is to deny the life principle of the Soul.
“The primordial unity of body and soul not only extends to the human being or the organic world, but to all phenomena which constitute the kosmos. including space and time. The soul is the meaning of the body and the body is the manifestation of the soul. Deriving from this Gnosis is the experience of a total sacredness of the phenomenal world as ‘Ultimate Reality’. The ‘Ultimate Reality’ is not to be found BEYOND the phenomena in an abstract transcendent world or ‘Paradise’ but WITHIN the phenomena through their magical nimbus and aura.” – Beth, Ibid, (Emphasis Mine)
Imagine then, dear reader, what generations of reduced and divided souls might feel. Imagine the sense of loss, the feeling of alienation and imprisonment which is laid upon them. Imagine the unrelenting glare of the searchlight that sweeps across the landscape seekeing out and paralysing those refuges that flee into the night, where strange things might exist beyond the lines of ratio and ledger, number and boundary. Imagine how ten thousand years of forgotten things might hold their breaths, risking a faint whispering susurrus to catch the attention of one who might pick their way through a forest, if they have ears to hear.
Or perhaps, even amidst the brightening buzz of fluroescent light, someone might taste something electric on their tongue, a half-remembered spark of lightning that leapt and danced amidst the thunder. They pause for a second, then go back to what they were doing – just one more dismissal in a lifetime of unknowing negation.
Or maybe they don’t. Maybe the pause stretches out, pregnant and full-bellied. Suddenly, they become aware of their breathing, the beating of their heart; they become aware that the light ebbs and flows a little, flickers in some way their eye never notices before. But that’s ridiculous, some part of them says, and so they laugh a little to ease the tension, suddenly perturbed by the sensation of the shirt upon their back, the way their feet suddenly announce their encasement in shoes; loudly and without restraint the voice of the body awakens to the fact that there is listening going on. Breath rasps suddenly, its quiescent rhythm released in favour of something new – or is it very old?
Don’t be ridiculous, says that part, that single tone of denial. Nothing important here.
But suddenly, your throat is dry.
You swallow, the need for it is called up without thinking. The light hums a song, its flicker echoing and answering your pulse, the same thing you didn’t feel a moment ago. Momements on moments, again and again as new things arise in the sphere of your perception. First a trickle, then an onrush, a cavalcade, inside and out, thoughts, wonderings, echoes.
A choice then, to dismiss this, or to breathe and be and feel and know. Which would you take, as the tides turn, and the waves begin to swell and crest?
For this is a different kind of consciousness, or at the very least its threshold. The threshold of Night-conscousness, of the fluidity of dream and fire and heat and blood and ice and earth. A million gods and spirits, ten thousand thousand manifold possibilities; the very air could quiver with it, wieaving and pluming itself into your very breath. Before you, and in you; most immediate and most wondrous – here lies the Kosmos unveiled, shyly at first like a new lover, then soon after, all engulfing with feral intensity.
That denial still cries out, but it is met and matched and echoed in the mutual empowerment of soul. Even that most divisive of spirits is pepeered with fiery kisses, and entwined by cool limbs, pressed into silence by a desire that pours itself out and fills its ever hungry throat.
When and how does this occur? When does the isolation of Kaivalya become as the way “[A]n explorer who sets foot onto unknown territory becomes isolated by the experience of total novelty and strangeness, an alienation of wonder and astonishment”?
More in Part 2.